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Nels Glauder (born Nils Persson) 18 July 1846 – 22 June 1936

My grandfather’s grandfather, Nels Glauder, was said to be a seaman from Sweden who had jumped ship in Adelaide, settled in Forbes NSW, married a local widow in 1875, and had 5 children including my grandfather’s mother. The NSW Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages (NSW BDM) records many of the significant details of his life once he was living in New South Wales. I say New South Wales because it is important to remember that at that time Australia did not exist as a nation and the continent was made up of separate British colonies such as Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales.

Here are some details of his life once Nels had arrived in Forbes

1875Nels (29) marries Rebecca (30) in Forbes. Rebecca’s partner, John Higgins (42), had died a year earlier. She and her 5 young children were living on a farm on the Lachlan River 5km below Forbes.
Rebecca has 5 more children with Nels, including my Great Grandmother, Christina, in 1879.
1905Christina marries Alfred Ferguson in Forbes
1905My grandfather, Kenneth Glauder Ferguson, is born in Forbes
1920Nels and Rebecca (now in their 70s) sell the farm and move in to town to live with Christina and family.
1922Rebecca dies in Forbes aged 77. The extended family move from Forbes to Sydney later that year.
1936My great great grandfather Nels dies in Sydney just before his 90th birthday.
1961My great grandmother, Christina, dies in Sydney aged 82
1989My grandfather, Ken, dies in Sydney aged 84

There are many other interesting details available concerning Rebecca’s first partner, John Higgins, their 5 children and the provenance of the farm they owned, so-called Esrome Farm. Sources are plentiful. As well as the NSW BDM there are newspapers available through the National Library of Australia’s Trove and the work of conscientious family researchers. But the story of Nels’ life before he arrived in Forbes was more difficult to uncover.

Nels was born in Sweden and I presumed 19th century Swedish historical records would be a challenge for me to understand. Also if he really was a seaman that would present further challenges. I have many ancestors who came to Australia as convicts or free settlers. Their migratory movements are well-documented – especially the convicts. But sailor ancestors can be difficult to track.

I did have one solid piece of evidence about Nels’ life in Sweden. In October 1880 Nels paid an immigration deposit for ‘Christina Glauder’, aged 28, domestic servant at an address in Sweden. The deposit was refunded in February 1883 due to her non-arrival, so it seemed that Nels’ younger sister never emigrated to Australia. The address given is located in the Swedish province of Blekinge and this gave me a new direction for research.

To effectively research Nels and his origins I needed to understand two important issues:

  • Swedish traditional naming conventions
  • the importance of Swedish military service in the lives of the people of Blekinge

As a primer and general resource I can recommend the Sweden Genealogy section of the FamilySearch Research Wiki.

Swedish Names

Traditionally Swedes used a patronymic naming system. A child would be given a surname made up of the father’s first name plus ‘son’ for a boy or ‘dotter’ for a girl. The FamilySearch wiki has a good article explaining it further. For example, if Sven Andersson had a son, the son’s surname would be Svensson. If he had a daughter her surname would be Svensdotter. So a nuclear family would have diverse surnames. Note also that a woman did not usually take the surname of her husband. For example:

Parents:Sven AnderssonBengta Persdotter
Children:Nils SvenssonKristina Svensdotter

As a corollary you can also see that Sven’s father’s first name would have been Anders, while Bengta’s father’s would have been Per.

Initially this can be confusing because in English-speaking countries we are used to seeing all the members of a household with the same surname – usually the father’s. It is also relatively easy to follow father’s surnames across multiple generations. Additionally, some Swedish first names are very common and so, therefore, are the surnames of their children. So if a village contains a few men named Sven there will be many children with the surname Svensson and Svensdotter but they may not be closely related. Some might be, but you cannot rely on their surnames to demonstrate this.

During the 1860s and 1870s this patronymic naming system began to fall out of favour. At this time many Swedes were migrating to larger cities or to other countries like Germany and the USA and chose to use a new non-patronymic surname. This may have been an Anglicised version of their name, or a place name or their father’s ‘military name’ or something just made-up.

Swedish Military Service

It seems that Nels’ ancestors had lived in the province of Blekinge for many generations. It is located in the far south of Sweden not far from Denmark. In fact Blekinge was part of the Kingdom of Denmark from about 1026. During the 17th Century Sweden rose as a ‘great power’ and took control of Blekinge in 1658. Sweden needed men for its army and navy and used compulsory military service. Coastal provinces such as Blekinge generally provided men for naval service using an ‘allotment system‘ (more about this later). In 1680 the city of Karlskrona was constructed in Blekinge as Sweden’s principle naval base. It has been suggested that Blekinge was chosen for such a large military presence because it had only recently become part of the Swedish Empire and so the loyalty of its inhabitants was suspect. Blekinge is much closer to Copenhagen than it is to Stockholm.

When a young man joined the army or navy he was given a new surname. This might be based on a personal characteristic, such as Modig (brave), a place-name or it may have been the military surname used by his father. The military had rules for the use and re-use of military surnames such as a prohibition on the use of a surname more than once at the same time in a company. (The use of assigned military surnames may have been a response to the confusion caused by common patronymic names). Sometimes a military surname would be passed from father to son but it was at the discretion of the company commander. Further explanation can be found in the FamilySearch wiki.

As mentioned, military service was organized using an ‘allotment system’. Under this system contracts were drawn up between the Crown and freehold farmers. Farms were grouped together into an allotment (or “rote”). Each rote (usually made up of 2-4 farms) was responsible for supplying a soldier or seaman to the armed forces. In practice this meant that the rote provided a cottage and some land to the soldier or seaman and his family and whatever other equipment was needed, such as a uniform. The benefit to the farmers was that as long as they supplied a soldier or seaman under this system they (and especially their sons) were exempt from military service.

Nels’ father, Pehr Jönsson Glader, and his ancestors for many generations had served as seamen in the Swedish navy. The correct term in Swedish is ‘båtsman’ (singular) and ‘båtsmän’ (plural). Unfortunately the word suggests something like ‘boatman’ in English which sounds like somebody who messes about in a rowing boat, instead of what it really means: ‘navy seaman’. This is Nels’ paternal line:

Name (incl. military surname)LivedNaval Service Company
FatherPehr Jönsson Glader1815-1854BBG 3:e båtsmanskompaniet, nr 322
GrandfatherJöns Svensson Norck1782-1851BBG 3:e båtsmanskompaniet, nr 318
Great GrandfatherSwen Svensson Syring1748-1828BBG 3:e båtsmanskompaniet, nr 378
Great Great GrandfatherSven Svensson Knekt1708-1762BBG 3:e båtsmanskompaniet, nr 373

You can see that Nels’ father’s name was Pehr Jönsson and that he was given the military name of Glader, which means happy or perhaps cheerful in Swedish. His patronymic surname came from Jöns, his father’s name, who in turn had the military name ‘Norck’. First names had variants so watch out for Sven/Swen, Pehr/Per and Nils/Nels.

Nels’ other ancestors show a similar record of service in the navy.

Good records are available regarding those who served in the Swedish armed forces under the allotment system. A great source of information for those researching ancestors from Blekinge is the Blekinge Släktforskarförening (Blekinge Genealogical Society) who have compiled the Blekinge Båtsmansregister. It is, of course, in Swedish but I have been using the Google Chrome ‘Translate this page’ function which does a very good job. Here is the record in the Blekinge Båtsmansregister for Nels’ father.

Another comprehensive source of information is Hans Högman’s Genealogy and History Site. Hans is especially interested in Swedish Military History and has a great deal of information about the Allotment System. Hans’ website is in Swedish but he has kindly provided many pages in English.

Swedish Household Examination Books

So far so good. I can see how a man born in Sweden as Nils, son of Per, could have become Nels Glauder after emigrating to Australia. And I have found interesting military records concerning the naval service of Nels and his male ancestors. But how can I connect Nels with a sister living in a village in Blekinge? The answer is The Church. The Lutheran Church of Sweden kept close tabs on what its parishioners were up to. While names were somewhat flexible, dates for births, baptisms, marriages and deaths were recorded conscientiously. In addition, the local priests maintained ‘Household Examination Books‘. These look a bit like a census book. They record who was living in each household, but they were amended over time, so they also record events such as births, deaths, attendance at communion and when people moved. Often the books contain cross-references to other entries in the same book or to entries in books maintained by other parishes. So a careful reading of the relevant ‘Household Examination Books’ can reveal a great deal of information concerning the lives and movements of parishioners.